With all athletic events on hold, sports fans have spent the last 10 days watching old games and documentaries.
Several leagues and television networks are beginning to adjust, attempting to provide fans with live events. Kind of.
NASCAR, which has suspended its season until at least May 9 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, kicked off the new era of sports Sunday by broadcasting live iRacing on Fox Sports 1. Denny Hamlin beat out Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a virtual race at Homestead-Miami Speedway that included a 35-driver field and had some of the sport’s biggest names competing on racing simulators.
“For the community, the racing community, the NASCAR drivers to come together and put drivers on the racetrack with such short notice, everyone is buying up simulation rigs this week and last week getting ready for the event, and for it all to come together and have a great finish, I think it was definitely a success,” Hamlin said, according to The Associated Press.
Hamlin said that iRacing reached out with the idea, NASCAR signed on and Fox Sports 1 agreed to broadcast the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational series, which will mirror the real NASCAR schedule until it can get underway again. Hamlin was iRacing before he made it to NASCAR, but many of the others drivers were new to virtual racing.
“No one really talked to the drivers about unifying and participating,” said Hamlin, who raced Sunday barefoot from his North Carolina home. “It was all free will, and that’s what’s exciting is you had full-time Cup guys out there willing to spend their time doing this.”
The Associated Press reported that many drivers showcased their sponsors and recruited their real spotters and crew chiefs to assist them in the virtual world.
NBC Sports Washington has started televising simulations of every Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals game that was scheduled to take place through the rest of the regular season. NBC Sports is broadcasting one-hour video game simulations, using NBA 2K20 for the NBA and NHL 20 for the NHL.
“We know that fans are as disappointed as we are to not be able to watch our favorite teams on a nightly basis,” said Zach Leonsis, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment and General Manager of Monumental Sports Network. “We hope that when people tune in and watch these simulated games, they will be able to enjoy some friendly competitive play from the comforts of their own home.”